Discuss the relationship of H and P, making reference to the major critical issues involved in the debate and the major positions taken by scholars working on the issues.


The Holiness Code (H) was a term coined by A. Klostermann (1877) that is meant to describe the legal corpus of Leviticus 17-26 that has a central focus on holiness. P can be used as a blanket term that includes P and H, since general consensus has been that H was an earlier document incorporated into P, or P can be used in distinction to H. A major issue in present scholarship includes both the relative and absolute dates of H and P, as well as the very existence of these sigla as independent sources.

Existence of P and HEdit

Important to understanding P’s interaction with H is whether or not H constitutes a single legal corpus. If this is merely fragments of an older strata that P has sewn together, we have little business worrying about H as a distinct unity. Arguments in favor of seeing H as a unity (according to Joosten) are: (1) it begins with discussion the place of sacrifice, similar to other law codes (CC, Deuteronomy, laws of P, Ezekiel 40-48, Lev 17), (2) it also ends with blessings and cursings, (3) the reasons for laws are given and explained in contrast to P (4) H has distinctive vocabulary, style, and theology from the rest of P. Arguments against H’s unity generally highlight the apparent lack of order, duplication (Lev 18,20; Lev 19:9, 23:22), and lack of comprehensiveness in the code. Related to this question is the existence of P as an independent source. Rendtorff has pointed out that there has long been an understanding that P is divided between narrative on the one hand and legal and cultic texts on the other. Wellhausen referred to the narrative as Q, since it delineated four covenantal periods (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses), and called the legal material the “priestly code.” Noth refused to see both of these as P, but argued that the narrative portion was the true documentary source of P. Cross, on the other hand, has argued that P was never a continuous narrative source, but merely redacted the existing narratives of JE. With these considerations in mind, one has to be clear what is being compared. The problem of establishing a relationship between P and H is establishing if and where they exist. If we find similarities and differences within the cultic and legal material, can this still inform tell us something about the narrative portions of P?

Cultic TheologyEdit

P and H, although sharing a common interesting in cultic matters, differ in theology and vocabulary. The following is Milgrom’s distinction between P and H’s theology based on Leviticus. P generally ascribes holiness to priests and that moral and ritual violations taint the sanctuary that must be expiated by the offerings by the offender and high priest. H on the other hand, democratizes holiness to more than the priests and the sanctuary, but argues that all the people and the whole land of Israel should strive to be holy, the amount of holiness is dependent upon obedience. Violation of sexual taboos and idolatry are considered covenantal breaches that pollute the land, but cannot be expiated by ritual.

P before HEdit

Israel Knohl has argued that H is actually the later source, and edited P. Knohl contends that there is no evidence for P editing H, but there is evidence of H editing P outside of Lev 17-26. Because Knohl’s ideas of P and H differ slightly than the norm, he renames them PT (Priestly Torah) and HS (Holiness School). Knohl contends that PT was solely interested in the cult, with only ritual prescriptions, no moral code. HS, on the other hand, is seen as a corrective based on the prophetic critiques of the 8th century, and balances both moral obligation and social justice with ritual concerns. Thus, Knohl calls the approach of HS, to be “priestly-popular” because it incorporates elements of “popular” religion into priestly circles. Since Knohl is influenced by the Kaufmann school, he also argues that P precedes D. Thus, for Knohl, H has its origins before D (Hezekiah’s reforms) but continued to be an active school into the exile. Knohl’s thesis has had an impact and several scholars now agree that H is later than P, but few outside of the Kaufmann school would accept P’s priority to D. For example, Robert Kugler, accepts Knohl’s reordering but does not accept its earlier date. Kugler also questioned Knohl’s methodology in comparing in using the narrative portions of P in his comparisons of H, arguing that it would have been more methodologically sound to compare the legal corpora. Kugler argues against Knohl’s assumption that H originated in priestly circles, but argues that H is a polemic against Leiticus 1-16.


Lastly, important to the discussion of P and H is their relationship with Ezekiel. It should not be suprising, considering Ezekiel’s priestly background, that Ezekiel should have affinity to priestly language and concerns. Earlier scholars saw the relationship between H and Ezekiel 40-48 so close that they either argued that Ezekiel was its author (so K. H. Graf) or that Ezekiel was entirely dependent upon it (so Klostermann). Ezekiel also shares vocabulary and expression with P. For example, P is known for its phrase “be fruitful and multiply” and Ezekiel employs this as “multiply and be fruitful.” Ezekiel often employs the phrase “that you may know that I am the Lord” which is reminiscent of P and H. Both Ezekiel and the H describe violations as profraning Yahweh’s name. Ezekiel 18 and 22 both outline offenses similar to what is in H. Ezekiel’s distinction between Zadokite priest and general Levites is also similar to the distinction made in P. These connections, tend to compound problems rather than offer solutions. Since even the relative dating of P and H is in flux, it is hard to know if Ezekiel is drawing on P and H, or if P and H drew upon Ezekiel. Haran argues that Ezekiel represents what P remembers from his own priestly service, rather than interfacing with a received text. Wellhausen, who presupposed that Ezekiel 40-48 were from the historical Ezekiel, argued that he represented as a middle point between D and P. However, subsequent scholars have viewed parts of Ezekiel as the work of later editors or schools.


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